I really should be working on my paper instead of writing another fic (well semester is over in 2 weeks and I'll have the whole summer).

This story is completely AU: well you'll see why in this chapter.

Thanks so much to Dream7 for betaing this chapter!

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its wonderful characters!

"This isn't so bad." The young Renji Abarai grinned as he walked side by side with Izuru and Momo in Karakura Town. He placed his hands behind his head, enjoying the fresh air and the opportunity to work with his two friends. They were hunting down hollows, and they'd been ordered to travel in groups since they hadn't graduated from the academy yet. They were to call for help if they ran into any problems, but most of the hollows they had run into had been easy to deal with.

"I thought they would have been more of a challenge…" Izuru whispered, looking off to the side. They had only faced four hollows so far, but he felt uneasy about how smoothly things had been going. He wondered if all of their classmates were having the same luck.

"Don't worry; I'm sure it's just a quiet night. Maybe next time we'll have more of a challenge," Momo said cheerfully while swinging her arms at her sides. As if in response to her words, the ground suddenly started shaking and they heard a loud shriek followed by shouts of surprise and fear. They all looked at one another for a split second before taking off down the street towards the source of the commotion. There, they found several other students backing away from one of the largest hollows they had ever seen.

"Is that…" Momo's eyes widened as she stared at the hollow; it was taller than most of the buildings surrounding them. She looked up at her two friends and saw that their eyes just as wide as her own. However, unlike many of the other students, they stood their ground.

"No!" a nearby girl shouted as she fell to her knees. They looked back at the hollow and saw it fling a second girl into a building. Her body slumped to the ground.

Up ahead they saw their mentor, Hisagi Shūhei, draw his zanpakutou as the hollow crushed another student beneath its massive claws. More roars sounded from behind them and they turned to see other hollows emerging. In unison, they drew their zanpakutou's and got into a defensive formation.

"Momo, since you're good at kido, maybe you should be defense and we'll be offense," Renji suggested quietly as two hollows began circling them. Shūhei was ordering the other students to run away, but there was no way the three of them could escape. And unfortunately, none of the other students spared a second thought for them as they ran for their lives.

Renji charged at the hollow in front of him. Luckily, it wasn't as large or as powerful as the one Shūhei was fighting. It swiped its claws at him, but he ducked and slashed its arm. "Renji!" Momo yelled when the hollow swung its tail at him. It nearly knocked him off his feet, but she cast a fireball at the hollow and blinded it.

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea," Renji muttered when the next swipe of his zanpakutou did nothing to the hollow. He knew they had tough skin, but the hollow kept bringing its arm and tail up to protect its mask.

He turned and saw that Izuru had managed to cut his hollow down and Momo was casting another kido spell at the hollow he was fighting. "Disintegrate, you black dog of Rondanini! Look upon yourself with horror and then claw out your own throat! Bakudō #9 Geki!" Momo yelled. A red barrier surrounded the hollow, paralyzing it and giving Renji the opportunity he needed to cut it down. He raced at the hollow and sliced through its mask. All three of them panted for breath as they watched it turn into particles and disappear.

They turned and started running again when screams sounded from somewhere behind them. They found two of their classmates struggling to run with heavy injuries while a hollow pursued them. Renji stopped for a moment when he heard a terrified scream coming from a different street.

"I'll be back!" Renji shouted to them. He knew he shouldn't separate from them, but he needed to see if he could help the person who'd been screaming.

He turned down a street to find a lot of fallen trees and three of his classmates lying in a pool of blood. "H-help," one muttered. The other two looked to be dead. Renji moved forward and knelt down next to the boy. He had never cared much for kido, but he suddenly wished desperately that he was better at it so he could help him.

"Don't worry; help is on the way," Renji promised him, but the boy's gaze shifted to the side and his eyes widened as his mouth dropped open. Renji frowned and looked up to see a hollow charging at him.

Renji rolled out of the way just in time to avoid being crushed by the bull-like hollow, and winced when it caught the injured student. A wave of guilt washed through him, but he didn't have time to think about it as the hollow had turned and was charging at him again. He raised his zanpakutou and slashed at it, but the hollow knocked him away like he was nothing.

He flew through the window of a small shop, scattering shards of glass onto the floor. He sustained several small cuts to his sides and arms, but nothing major. The hollow moved forward to finish him off like it had done with the other students, and he closed his eyes, wishing he hadn't left Izuru and Momo's sides. There were so many things he wouldn't be able to do now. He wanted to graduate from the academy and become a captain someday. More than anything, he wanted to talk to Rukia again. Noble or not, she had been his best friend since they were kids!

A loud shriek interrupted his thoughts, and he opened his eyes to see the hollow being attacked. Another hollow had jumped onto the bull's back and was clawing at it. As Renji watched, the second hollow viciously took a bite out of the other's neck. The redhead gulped and stood up slowly. He had never seen a hollow attack one of its own, but then again, they were heartless monsters. After everything he had seen that day, there wasn't much they could do that would surprise him.

The bull hollow grabbed its attacker and threw it off of him, giving Renji a better look at his accidental savior. It was a tall, unusually humanoid hollow with a muscular body and hole in the center of its chest. Its mask had a red design like a tattoo on one cheek. It had sharp talons on its hands and webbed feet, and a long tail covered in more red tattoos. What Renji found most surprising was the long, matted orange hair that grew out from behind the hollow's mask. He had been taught that most hollows lost all human features.

He took a step forward and noticed that there were cuts on the hollow's chest and arms; obviously, it had been fighting more than just this hollow. The bull hollow had its back to him and was instead focused on the lizard-like hollow.

The lizard hollow ran at the bull and clawed down its side while taking a bite out of the other hollows arm. Renji winced when the bull hollow's horns smashed into the lizard hollow and sent it flying back. The horns had left painful-looking wounds in the hollow's side, but it didn't give up and staggered back to its feet.

The lizard hollow raised two talons and began charging a cero. Renji took a step back. He had been taught that many strong hollows were able to perform this attack, but there was a huge different between reading about something and seeing it.

The bull hollow snarled and charged at the lizard, only to be vaporized by the cero. Renji's eyes widened as the hollow disappeared, leaving him alone with the lizard hollow. The large beast looked at him, and his trembling hand moved to his zanpakutou when it stepped closer to him.

He took a step back as it got closer, and continued moving until he hit the wall. This creature had just destroyed a hollow he'd been having problems with just by raising a few fingers. What chance did he have against it? He closed his eyes when the hollow stood in front of him. He wanted to try to fight back, but he couldn't move.

Renji heard a low growl and cautiously opened his eyes to see the hollow examining him. It raised one bone-white claw and turned his head the other way for its inspection. He had been studying hollows for months, but this kind of behavior had never come up. Was the hollow trying to determine if he was good enough to eat? For once, he wouldn't be insulted it he didn't make the cut.

The hollow bent its neck and rubbed its head against the side of Renji's cheek. Surreally, he could swear he could hear the hollow purring. This was beyond weird, but as long as he wasn't being eaten he wasn't going to complain. However, he did notice that in this position there was a good chance he'd be able to kill the beast, and he was tempted. His hand tightened around the hilt of his zanpakutou, but he never pulled it out. Even though this creature was like all the others that had killed his classmates, it had also saved him and killed another hollow. It didn't seem so bad.

Renji hesitantly raised his hand and placed it on the top of the hollow's mask. The hard bone was cool beneath his fingers.

He heard something off to his left, and the spell was shattered. The hollow bolted, and Renji could only watch as the hollow disappeared into the night.

He turned when he heard footsteps coming up behind him, and didn't have time to duck as a shoe was slammed into his face. He let out a small groan of pain and looked over to see a short girl with blond pigtails glaring at him while putting her shoe back on.

"Dumbass! You're not supposed to separate from your group! Weren't you paying attention?" lieutenant of the twelfth division, Sarugaki Hiyori, shouted at him with her unoccupied hand clenched in a fist.

"Now now, be nice," a friendly voice piped up from behind her, and Renji straightened up immediately at seeing the Urahara Kisuke, the twelfth captain of the Gotei 13. He'd figured that someone must have sent for help, but he hadn't been expecting a captain and a lieutenant to come.

"Whatever," Lieutenant Sarugaki snapped, and marched down past her captain. Captain Urahara scratched his head and smiled pleasantly.

"Are you alright?" Captain Urahara asked him, and Renji nodded quietly. He was somewhat subdued as he followed the short girl back to the other students.

He smiled when he saw that Momo and Izuru were all right, and were standing near the fifth division captain, Hirako Shinji, and the seventh division captain, Aizen Sosuke (whom Momo was admiring.) "About time you gathered everyone," Captain Hirako muttered, but was quickly silenced by a foot in the face from Lieutenant Sarugaki. The small group was soon taken back to Soul Society, crossing paths along the way with the fourth division shinigami who'd been sent to collect the injured and the dead.

Years Later

Renji sighed. Walking down the streets of Karakura Town once more, he couldn't help but remember everything that had happened the last time he'd been there. It had been years since that incident, and he hadn't thought of it as much as he'd expected to. Maybe it was because he'd been so focused on his goals and working so hard. He smirked at that; he was now the lieutenant of the sixth division. His captain was very stiff and didn't talk much, but he'd earned the respect of the others in the division and various other people he'd worked with.

He paused when he spotted someone crouching on the roof of a building. Smirking evilly, he quietly shunpo'd to the top of the building and snuck up behind the small figure. He bent down until he was looking over her shoulder and whispered into her ear, "I thought you were supposed to be guarding the city, not sightseeing."

Rukia yelped in surprised and whirled around to see her friend standing behind her. Her shocked face quickly turned into an angry one, and she glared at him irritably. "Don't sneak up on me like that! And I wasn't sightseeing; I was watching for hollows!" she protested, but Renji merely yawned to anger her further.

"Yeah, yeah. The head captain ordered me to keep you company and watch for any other hollow attacks, but according to the reports you sent in it's been quiet, right?" Renji said, and she nodded and folded her arms as she gazed upon the city.

"Once in a while there are hollows, but they're nothing big." She looked over at him, and her eyes softened. "Not like the ones you dealt with back when you were a student," she added, and he bowed his head. It was because of that incident that he had started talking to Rukia again. He had been so happy to walk away from the attack with his life, and she had come running to see him when she'd heard what happened.

"Hopefully it'll stay that way," he said, then grinned. "On the other hand, there's nothing I can't handle, so I hope I'll at least get a few challenges."

Rukia rolled her eyes. There was the cocky attitude again. Once he'd been made lieutenant, she'd never heard the end of it. Still, his company would make her mission more enjoyable. Perhaps she could help him with his kido and he could show her how to improve her zanjutsu.

The soul pager remained quiet throughout the night, but as Renji and Rukia peacefully discussed their assignment, a garganta opened across town. A figure who wore white robes and had a hole in the center of his chest stepped through and gazed upon the city. He was tall and had short, orange spiky hair. There were red tribal markings under his brown eyes. Those eyes narrowed as he scanned the area for beings with high reiatsu. Once he felt it was safe, he closed the garganta behind him. It had been years since he'd last been in this place, and he could use a rest from everything he'd been through. Hopefully this time he'd have a good amount of time to rest before he was hunted down again.

This storyline is different from the main. For one, Aizen is not going to betray the Soul Society or be evil and well, as you can see, Ichi is an arrancar. Also, Urahara is still in the Soul Society since he was not exiled and some of the vizards are captains while some retired. I am not too sure about the title for this fic so it might change.

Every semester towards the end when my mind is about to blow up from stress, ideas pop into my mind and I end up writing more than studying (well writing the fing papers! I don't see why these papers have to be 10-15 pages long and in the smallest font possible. Last rant, whoever made APA formant is on my hate list!). And well, this story is a creation of my latest stress.

Thanks for reading, hope ya enjoyed the first chapter, and please review